Three steps to avoid multichannel marketing overload

By Jeff Fowler, jfowler@dsoftware.biz

For many retailers, marketing can become decentralized and unsynchronized when each major communication channel operates under a different manager. Working directly with in-house IT, these managers often run independent data pulls for their campaigns, and send solicit files directly to ESPs and lettershops. They run recurring trigger campaigns that grab customers after a transaction and automatically target them with an offer. Periodically, consumers are peppered with new product announcements, holiday sales offers, catalogs, and postcards or flyers. Consumers with multiple email addresses often receive different offers on different addresses, and when databases aren’t merged properly they can get multiple catalogs and other mail pieces. Adding to this communications chaos, consumers are pounded with newsletters, notifications, status updates, plus transactional emails like order and shipping confirmations. That’s a lot of messages.

Frazzled consumers, overwhelmed by the disjointed communications stalking them through all these channels, are opting out or just not answering. Now is the time when retailers should use database marketing for more than just firing away with messages that inundate customers and test their patience. We need to get disciplined and agree on some rules. Here are three key steps that can help you integrate and manage your marketing efforts, and avoid multichannel marketing overload.

1.    Create ONE system of record
The marketing database must be the system of record for all consumer communications.Sounds like a no-brainer, but too often, channel managers pull data from internal legacy systems instead of the database. Why? Because they don’t trust their database.

A properly built marketing database undergoes address cleansing, consolidates duplicates, assigns a unique and persistent ID for each consumer, stores all relevant consumer transactions, and maintains a centralized promotion history that captures every contact made to every consumer. If you have to turn to your legacy system to run campaigns, it’s time to fix your marketing database.

2.    Rank your messages
Retailers need to create a communications hierarchy. Yes, this can create a political frenzy, but with so many potential messages lining up to be sent, it is essential to separate important communications from the non-essential, at different points in time. Think life or death: order confirmations or expire notifications are critical, but a sales promotion is not. Of course, the gray area here can vary according to scheduled marketing activities. The ultimate goal is not to suppress marketing promotions, but rather to control when and how frequently these messages are sent to consumers.

3.    Give consumers time to breathe
Make sure consumers have a cooling off period between solicitations. Add logic throughout your marketing campaigns to ensure there’s enough time after “touching” consumers before soliciting them again, whether or not it is the same channel. You can control this timing by adding solicit date fields on your customer table, such as last email or last direct mail piece, then update the appropriate date for every consumer touch. This process makes it easy for non-essential campaigns to exclude consumers that are within their cooling off period. Remember that messages such as expiration notices, newsletters, etc., may ignore the cooling off period, but they should still be updated to the appropriate date. If you arrange your recurring campaigns right, you won’t lose marketing opportunities with this technique. Instead, you’ll deliver the opportunity at a better time -- when the consumer isn’t distracted and turned off by too many messages.

Now more than ever, your marketing database needs to take the central role in driving your multichannel marketing. In our digital, real time world, where available data and consumer touchpoints multiply every day, retail marketers have an enormous opportunity to create and keep profitable customer relationships, as long as we play by the rules. Controlling the frequency of our messages to avoid multichannel marketing overload is a rule we can’t afford to forget.

Jeff Fowler is president and founder of Decision Software, provider of world class campaign management and marketing services, including MarketWide software, which provides open architecture campaign management that can surpass a billion transactions and drive marketing campaigns containing hundreds of segments. He can be reached at jfowler@dsoftware.biz.